Educators convene speaker series to address pressing questions in early childhood education and research in the 21st century

image of two girls sitting at a desk looking at a notebook
Parents should avoid intense teaching sessions and enjoy quality time with their children

Lucy Angus and Cristina Delgado Vintimilla, assistant professors new to York and the Faculty of Education, have created a lecture series entitled Disrupting Early Childhood: Inheritance, Pedagogy, Curriculum to explore new ideas about early childhood education (ECE) and create a space to bring together the innovative research conversations that are changing the field of ECE.

Lucy Angus
Lucy Angus

“This is a way of starting a new conversation with a wider network, across faculties and outside the University,” Angus said. “ECE is a field that draws on many disciplines, but rarely are there spaces that convene conversations around the new questions and innovative research imaginaries affecting early childhood education. The talk series invites speakers who address pressing educational questions from interdisciplinary perspectives. We see the series as a way of extending the pedagogies of early childhood education.”

Delgado Vintimilla finds that early childhood is often an afterthought.

“Early childhood as an area of study, particularly in the Canadian context, is often like the last wheel on a car or seen as just the site for the application of different pedagogical models,” said Delgado Vintimilla. “This is a space where we can shed light onto generative early childhood education research and share the inventive work that can emerge at the intersection with other disciplines.

Cristina Delgado Vintimilla
Cristina Delgado Vintimilla

“People think of ECE as a service so that parents can go to work while their children are kept safe and healthy, and it’s generally a service based on child development theories that focus on the different stages children go through. These ideas of progression and linearity are all embedded in preconceptions regarding who is a child, what is the purpose of early childhood education and who is an early childhood educator.”

Angus and Delgado Vintimilla are receptive, in their own research and as organizers of this series, to the ways that ECE and the interlocking fields of childhood studies and pedagogy have grappled with normative views of childhood that crop up on the horizon of many educational approaches. As one speaker featured in the series explained, imagining alternative and non-normative views of children and education can pose new questions for established fields like ECE but it is also field-making. Angus and Delgado Vintimilla view the talk series as an invitation for faculty colleagues, students and practitioners alike to learn how cutting-edge early childhood research is remaking the field of early childhood education.

“We want to give ECE a space for imagining other futures,” said Delgado Vintimilla. “Children do this all the time and we dismiss it as ridiculous, but we want to consider the different trajectories and processes we might put in place to create different possibilities of thinking and being.”

Delgado Vintimilla believes that individual educators, the entire faculty and the broader University will benefit from engaging with the series and its disruptive spirit.

“We’re trying to create a broader conversation about early childhood education at York, one that perhaps hasn’t been there, previously,” she said. “We’re contributing to early childhood by creating novel connections, relationships and other ways of thinking.”

To date, their lecture series has met its objectives of being disruptive and providing new perspectives.

“The series has really grown over the last year,” Angus said. “And during the COVID pandemic, the series has moved online, and our talks have drawn an international audience.”

Their last event, held virtually, brought together 250 people from around the world, all interested in reimagining ECE.

The series began last February and has been curated thematically in sets of three. A new series of three talks will be featured in the winter 2021 semester.

To date, their topics have included the non-chronological childhood education, the vitality of touch and the queerly magical child. Often, the topics focus on research being done at the edges of what the two educators call “a bounded discipline.” In their series, all manner of theories and approaches are open for consideration as a way of breaking these rigid boundaries: pedagogies that explore movement or non-innocence or the tensions that exist in childcare spaces, for example.

The next instalment of the lecture series is taking place in January 2021. It features a talk by Hannah Dyer (Child and Youth Studies, Brock University) and Casey Mecija (Communication Studies, York University), who will share their recent scholarship on the sonics of childhood and transnational caregiving.

The ECE series logo focuses on reshaping early childhood education
The ECE series logo focuses on reshaping early childhood education

What shape might a brave new world of ECE take? Angus and Delgado Vintimilla point to the work being done by the Early Childhood Pedagogies Collaboratory for ideas about the changes in approach that are possible. The collaboratory is “a hybrid and experimental space where educators, researchers and grad students trace and experiment with the contours, conditions and complexities of early childhood education pedagogies in the 21st century.”

“We see that we’ve sparked new curiosity about ECE. We are excited that this forum for experimental, theoretical, and pedagogical thinking has been generative for both questioning inherited views of childcare and ECE scholarship and imagining new futures,” said Angus.

By Elaine Smith, special contributing writer